Two hundred and thirty six years ago, the Continental Congress made the decision to form its own democracy and relieve itself of the perceived subjugation by Great Britain. John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, and told her that 2 July would be a day of celebration. Well, he was only off by two days as the fourth was when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Initially called Independence Day, it is now celebrated as the Fourth of July.
Most of the signatories, led by Benjamin Franklin, suggested that the day be one of great noise, illumination, and great joy in the thirteen colonies. Everyone realized that democracies can be messy and difficult to form, but they persisted and their grit led to ratification, and the Revolutionary war cemented the idea of a democratic form of government.
Today, Americans celebrate the day with "great noise and illumination", vacations, cookouts, and relaxation and recreation. But, as with other holidays, I often wonder how many of us actually connect the day with the event we are marking. I know that there are parades and fireworks, and political hay being made, and I am sure that some people reflect on the past and the significance of the day. But the word that often comes to mind is that Americans are apathetic and have little concern about democracy and how we are governing ourselves. Have we simply become complacent or is there a basis for our lack of involvement in the political process?
We have had 44 presidents so far, and there have only been a few who have had humble beginnings and therefore, a connection to the average voter. In the 19th century there was Jackson, Fillmore, Buchanan, Lincoln, Johnson, Grant, and Garfield. In the 20th century, there was only Hoover. And in the 21st century, even Obama, who had a difficult start to life, had wealth when he ran for president. I am not saying that wealth is a bad concept; it is a part of the capitalistic system, but it seems to cause some isolation from the real world of survival. All of the men elected were also backed with political machinery, and there have been no independent winners of the office.
I have voted in many elections and have always felt obligated to "do my civic duty" even though I was less than enthusiastic about the candidates. But it continues to be a choice between the lesser of two evils with no candidate really seeming to be the best possible choice. And, I realize that there are Americans who will never have an interest in politics or where the country is going, but those of us who do, are frustrated.
We have a Supreme Court that is more politically driven than ever, a bicameral legislature that is governed by ideologues who can't compromise on any issue, and an executive branch that considers the constitution to be an out dated document.
I am sure that if you talked to a voter from either Iraq or Egypt, they would tell a different story. After years of subjugation by dictators, they see the promise of democracy. I wish that we could feel as optimistic as they do about the future. Peace to all, and enjoy the history and the holiday...